Andrew and Sterling take an awards-style look at the crowded playoff picture. Plus, a special Thanksgiving Loser League announcement!
05 Oct 2009
compiled by Bill Barnwell
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
Please also note that we do not write the e-mails specifically to produce this column, which means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Raiders fan, not so much.)
Mike Kurtz: The Bears defense looks generally in disarray. The announcers are crediting two bears penalties with the Lions TD, and the penalty on the FG was huge, but The Lions had a massive toss to Megatron for 50-odd yards, and then Stafford barely missed him wide open in the end zone. It's just one drive, but it's a pretty damning one.
Bill Barnwell: Nice play by Jay Cutler, going full Elway for a touchdown plunge. Announcer notes that the coaches would "dog-cuss" him if he didn't make it. That's a term I'm unfamiliar with.
Doug Farrar: Chicago’s beat writers immediately started writing columns interpreting his body language during the play.
Mike Kurtz: Not sure who's doing the announcing, but most of the words he's using I'm pretty sure aren't real words in ANY language, so I wouldn't be too surprised. Also doesn't understand the facemask rule.
Stafford looks really good, but has made 3 really bad near-miss overthrows to wide-open receivers.
Next play, of course, throws up a turf-burner.
If Stafford was a few feet more accurate, he would be cutting the Bears to ribbons, and it's not just the defense. He's doing a great job reading the defense. For instance, the Bears showed a 6-man middle blitz, then pulled the MLB back, but he blitzed from the back of the box anyway. The Lions couldn't keep up and they were in the backfield in about two seconds, but Stafford identified the blitz and the wide receiver either did also or Stafford told him to stick around, quick hitch and get an easy first down off the CB playing back.
His accuracy has been a real problem thus far, though. Two overthrown passes in the EZ, and then one that was overthrown but should have been caught by Pettigrew.
Another megablitz by the Bears, only a DPI keeps it from being a giant Megatron TD. They need to come with better blitzes, or at least smarter blitzes. They're doing a lot more inside blitzing, I wonder if they're scared of the running game.
Bears finally focus on coverage, rush four, get a coverage sack.
Doug Farrar: You've got two quarterbacks in love with their arms in this game, that's for sure. On fourth-and-goal in the second quarter, Cutler threw a ball through the end zone so hard, the thing rebounded a good ten yards off the crowd barrier.
What Polian is to wideouts, Jerry Angelo is to kick returners. Rookie burner Johnny Knox took the opening second-half kickoff for a 102-yard touchdown, and he looked about 50 percent faster than anyone else on the field.
Vince Verhei: That was absurd. It wasn't Knox beating the kicker one-on-one, it was Knox WITH TWO BLOCKERS IN FRONT OF HIM beating the kicker. Did the Lions have nine men on the field on that play?
Mike Kurtz: Yeah, the Bears aren't really all that great at picking kick
returners, they just have fantastic special teams coaching. The blocking is and coordination are superb, year after year, even when the returners are sucking. It's the reason Chicago has been able to hang around the past few years.
Doug Farrar: Clear indicator that nobody respects Cleveland’s defense – on fourth-and-3 in the first quarter, the Bengals go for it from the Browns’ 35. Bernard Scott gets the handoff outside, the Bengals’ offensive line blows out the outside pursuit, and it’s a 10-yard gain.
As you will no doubt see, Mr. Ochocinco ended that same drive with what might be the catch of the year in the end zone. Extended his body all-out with Eric Wright all over him, and brought the ball in before he hit the ground. Amazing play.
David Gardner: And then Chad had to be restrained before trying to jump into the dog pound.
Aaron Schatz: Cleveland called a really weird timeout in that game. The Bengals were left with fourth and goal, down by 6 points. Their offense looked totally confused, and clock was running down to 2:02... 2:01... and the BROWNS used their last timeout. Huh? We figured the Browns would keep that timeout because they would need it to come back if the Bengals did score on the next play. And why on earth would you call a timeout as the clock was about to hit the two-minute warning? Luckily for the Browns, they blocked the extra point so they didn't need that timeout to comeback and try to win the game -- the game went to overtime at 20-20.
Why is Eric Mangini using Mike Furrey both ways in overtime? Do they have injuries I don't know about? I know the guy was a safety for a while, but he's really such a great athlete that you have to use him both ways?
Mike Tanier: There's no right way to use Mike Furrey.
The Browns had no business staying in the game the way they played in the first half. They could barely move the ball and had at least four dropped passes. The Bengals offense just let them hang around by going 3-and-out a thousand times.
Tom Gower: Pure genius: the analyst in the Bengals-Browns game, one Rich Gannon by name, was greatly confused by why the Bengals took a time out with :07 left in overtime. After all, if they make the FG, they'll then have to kick off to Josh Cribbs, whom they had been conspicuously avoiding on punts. I will be kind to Mr. Gannon and not point out that he'd earlier been needling Ian Eagle about Syracuse alum Donovan McNabb not knowing games could end in a tie.
Bill Barnwell: The announcers also noted at one point that "Eric Heiden" had made a nice catch for a touchdown.
Rob Weintraub: Cincy, in yet another cardiac affair, did have a pitchout today, to Bernard Scott on a third and medium, and he stuck it for a first down. Was begging for some more while going first down free for 2 1/2 quarters, but alas.
I watched it all, and would prefer not to report on it. P.U. I'll give Rob Ryan some credit--the Browns did a very good job disguising coverages for that long stretch. But after Cincy went up 14-0 early, they checked out until somehow pulling it out at the end. The Bengals, playing ugly and winning anyway again! Who are these guys??
Hidden key -- Cleveland had two short-field possessions in the 4th quarter, and we held them to three both times. So only down 20-14, Palmer and Co. figured why not go ahead and get the win.
Is there another team that has a dedicated long snapper who cannot, apparently, snap the ball to the holder on kick attempts? Brad St. Louis is a willing special teams tackler and a nice guy, but how many bad snaps does it take before someone else takes the gig?
Vince Verhei: Some fun numbers from halftime of this game: Matt Schaub has 16 attempts for 204 yards, including three plays of 41 yards or more (to three different receivers). JaMarcus Russell has 18 attempts for 83 yards, total.
The Raiders have 12 rushes for 41 yards (including 20 on one carry by Darrius Heyward-Bey). Steve Slaton has 12 rushes for 54 yards. His longest carry (32 yards) was beating the Raiders' rushing total until right before halftime.
Mike Tanier: What did Tom Cable do to deserve this? Oh yeah, right...
I was surprised by how many JaMarcus Russell passes don't come within three yards of the receiver. I have seen inaccurate passers who are always a half yard or yard off, but he's the first quarterback I have ever seen who consistently misses by four yards.
Bill Barnwell: What hurts JaMarcus Russell is that Darrius Heyward-Bey can't stay upright. It's not just that he falls down when he gets hit. He falls down when he's brushed by a corner. On plays where other receivers are being targeted and Heyward-Bey appears in the background, he's tipping over. I don't know if he did this in college, but he's terrible.
Mike Tanier: Heyward-Bey sometimes stays upright long enough to drop the few accurate passes. And you don't give that Murphy kid enough credit for his ability to fall over.
Doug Farrar: The Colts ran a neat little TE combo on their opening drive with both TEs to the left -- Dallas Clark running a short out and Gijon Robinson heading upfield. Split Seattle’s alleged defense right in two. Note to Kelly Jennings: When you play the ball, you also have to play the receiver – you can’t stop and look at the pretty ball in the air halfway through the route. That’s why Pierre Garcon burned you for that long sideline catch.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Seattle defense isn’t any more disciplined, nor are they lining up any better, than they were when Lofa Tatupu was out. Maybe it’s a backfire from giving Peyton Manning the silent treatment.
Vince Verhei: Seneca Wallace almost made it out of the first quarter without running out of bounds for a big loss when he had the opportunity to throw the ball away, but he couldn't help himself. He seems to be getting dumber
with more experience.
Pierre Garcon did make a nice catch down the sideline on the game-opening, game-winning touchdown drive. I marvel at Bill Polian's ability to find wide receivers.
Wallace hits John Carlson for a big gain, but the play is wiped out by a penalty -- on Wallace, who was a full yard past the line of scrimmage. You know, Jeff Garcia is unemployed and apparently looking for work.
Doug Farrar: I'd be more inclined to blame Wallace for any of this if he had any protection whatsoever. Garcia wouldn't last a three-and-out behind this line.
And after Mike Carey gets his allotted facetime by blowing a substitution call and talking extensively to both coaches, effectively halting the game for five minutes, the Manning-Garcon combo carves the Seahawks secondary again. This game is as good an advertisement for the Red Zone Channel as there is.
Vince Verhei: It would certainly be wrong to say that the Seahawks are down 21-3 at the half simply because of Wallace. He's under heavy pressure. There have been plenty of penalties. The receivers can't break tackles. The defense is making Peyton Manning look like, well, your average Peyton Manning. It's been a team-wide butt-kicking.
Manning has tied Fran Tarkenton for third in career touchdown passes. The last went to Austin Collie. What did I just say about Polian and wideouts?
Doug Farrar: Perhaps the most disconcerting play was in the Seahawks' failed red zone series that ended in a field goal. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had a one-on-one with a defender that was giving up nearly a foot in height (or so it seemed). Instead of going to the end zone, Housh sort of rounded off the route and stopped short of the goal line. The Seahawks are starting to remind me of the Redskins -- they don't have any confidence in their offensive success, so they'll just go dink-dink-dink all day. My impression was that they paid Housh all that money to provide end zone advantage.
The Seahawks' brilliant "silent defensive count" strategy is backfiring something fierce. Basically, between that and the home crowd, Manning probably has to call his audibles over more noise in practice. Presnap, it sounds like he's in a public library.
Tom Gower: The Jaguars will be missing both rookie OTs, so Tra Thomas gets off the bench. For Britton at RT, they're kicking out Maurice Williams from RG and putting Nwaneri in for him. It's probably the better move, but it just feels wrong to voluntarily start 3 OL you didn't start the previous week. Something I'll have to keep an eye on once the game starts.
MJD goes in from 10 yards out to give the Jags their first 1Q TD of the season and a 10-0 lead early on Tennessee. The Titans have gone 3&out both times they've had the ball and Garrard's been able to find time to hit WRs downfield. They picked on Nick Harper the first drive, but he did manage a PD on 3&G to force the field goal. This drive, they also picked on Jason McCourty some, just to prove they're an equal opportunity assaulter against CBs who can't cover.
On the bright side, Mark Jones has successfully managed to catch all 3 of Josh Scobee's kickoffs 8 yards deep into the end zone.
After #32 ST DVOA strikes again, giving the Jaguars the ball at the Titans' 46 after a kickoff, Garrard needs 3 plays before answering the Titans' FG with a TD to Sims-Walker. The Titans' pass D problems of the first two weeks certainly do not appear to have been fixed.
Chris Johnson comes close to breaking off a long gain, but Gerald Alexander not only makes the tackle but forces a fumble that Reggie Nelson manages to recover inbounds. CJ's knee is almost down, but Fisher elects not to challenge down 20-3 late in the 2nd quarter. It's probably a loser, but the chance you get a reversal is better than giving them the ball at your 42.
We've now lost the announcers (Fouts and Enberg), which is interesting and feeling rather blessed.
It's going to be another fun week of explaining the "going to the ground" rule for Titans fans. Mike Sims-Walker catches a pass in the end zone for the Jags, then is tackled by Jason McCourty, who strips the ball out before Sims-Walker is going to the ground. Pass is called incomplete on the field, but gets reviewed. But, because Sims-Walker was standing up when he made the catch and got 3 feet down before being tackled, he wasn't actually "going to the ground" when making the catch and thus the call on the field is overturned and the TD stands. Good job by the refs, though Riberon did a lousy job of explaining it. 27-3.
Titans get the ball back with under :30 left, but Collins is picked on an out route when he completely doesn't see the obvious underneath defender. Only :10 for the Jags to work with from the 26, and Scobee misses wide right after Garrard is sacked.
After holding the Jaguars to a FG on their first possession of the second half, Collins moves the Titans down the field on short and medium passes, hitting Kenny Britt on a couple third downs. The Jags get pressure in the middle, though, and Collins airmails a pass right to Cox. VY starting Week 8 after a bye for an 0-6 team is looking more like reality (vs. IND, at NE the next 2 games).
Mark Jones gets an 8 yard return on a Jaguar punt to give the Titans their best starting field position of the game. Their own 23. Yes, it's been that kind of day.
Bill Barnwell: Joe Flacco's drawn the Patriots offside with a hard count twice in six snaps or so, including once from the shotgun. Not bad.
Love watching the Ravens' offense so far this year (charted 2 of 3 games, thanks AFC West). They ran a lot of plays last week motioning Clayton into the backfield as the tailback and then handing the ball to the upback (usually Rice) with the occasional handoff to Clayton and a Flacco option. This week, they run the same motion, but work play action to the fullback and then throw a quick hitch to the side Clayton came from for the first down.
Is anyone tougher in the pocket than Flacco? He stands in the pocket and, despite having a rusher right in his face, throws a perfect out to Mason for a touchdown.
Bill Barnwell: Jim Nantz is a poet. "The sun has come out after a week-long scrimmage with the clouds, and is declaring victory."
Aaron Schatz: The one thing I would say about this game so far is that the Ravens don't seem to be sending quite as many pass rushers after Tom Brady as people expected. Just four or five, I haven't seen a lot with six or more. They didn't copy the Jets' game plan.
Now that the Patriots beat Baltimore at home, can all of New England stop having a massive panic attack, worrying that the Pats are going 6-10 just because they lost a road game to a division rival by a touchdown?
Mike Tanier: The Patriots forced Joe Flacco to make some bad-habit mistakes in mid game, throwing off his back foot several times and getting a little cute with his scrambling. They did this by rushing him hard early and by doubling Todd Heap often to take away the safety valve. He bounced back for a decent game, but it showed that the Patriots can still take away a major part of an opposing offense.
Penalties were also a big problem for the Ravens. Two roughing the passer calls, an offensive pass interference, a few illegal contacts in the secondary. They kept giving the Patriots first downs.
David Gardner: On the first drive of the game for Washington, Gaines Adams got a sack on second down and then recovered a fumble off a Jimmy Wilkerson fumble on third down. A good start for a guy under a lot of pressure.
Doug Farrar: And Josh Johnson (the guy I did a pool report on from the Combine two years ago) threw a touchdown pass off that turnover with a pretty sweet play-action fake. Good to see him doing well out there.
David Gardner: The Bucs defense has come alive today. Clinton Portis has had some nice runs, but for the most part, has been contained. Talib has a pair of interceptions, Gaines Adams came to play and Geno Hayes has looked really fast in run support.
Doug Farrar: In the second quarter, Campbell threw a pass that bounced off the umpire and flew straight up in the air, and that was almost another pick. The Redskins are very lucky they’re playing an offense that can’t score – it’s only 7-0 near the half even with all those Washington miscues.
David Gardner: Ronde Barber has still got the speed. He broke up a near-touchdown pass on the last Redskins drive and then blocked an extra point off the edge.
Talib is having the game of his young career, with three interceptions. It'd be a perfect game for him except he got burned bad by Holmes on a huge touchdown pass that is the difference in the game.
Mike Tanier: How many quarterback runs were there in this game? Wow, 14. Campbell's preferred method of getting first downs was to scramble on third down. Johnson just likes to run around in circles like QB-Eagles from Tecmo Bowl. When Santana Moss caught that touchdown pass, it may have been the only time all day a receiver was open.
Doug Farrar: Halfway through the second quarter, the Saints are up, 17-0 on the Jets, and both of New Orleans’ touchdowns are from the defensive side of the ball. Welcome to Bizarro World Saints, where defense exists!
Sean McCormick: Sanchez has made two brutal mistakes, the first being a telegraphed throw towards the end zone that Darren Sharper picked and returned for a touchdown and the second being a sack and fumble in the end zone when he held onto the ball WAY too long off a play action. Since that point, he's responded by tucking the ball and running a lot more.
Aaron Schatz: Saints pass rush is really overwhelming the Jets offensive line. All that talk about how many guys the Jets have been sending, but the Saints are blitzing just as much and the Jets can't pick it up.
Mike Kurtz: I think what you're seeing with the Jets this year is fundamentals. Aside from a really awful CB dive-tackle, all of the Jets tackles have been very fundamentally sound. A mediocre defense can quickly become a good defense with proper discipline and fundamentals. That's often lost in the shuffle.
Aaron Schatz: Charles Grant all over the place today. He had a sack where he came in unblocked. For some reason, the Jets had Damien Woody blocking to the left instead. How do you let a defensive end in untouched?
Bill Barnwell: Welcome to "Not Converting On Fourth Down" Week. We've seen at least four failed conversions today.
Vince Verhei: Chad Ochocinco does not have this day on his calendar.
Aaron Schatz: Ian Dembsky made a good point over here at Bill's house. Teams need to stop running so many handoffs to the halfback in the I-formation. If
the defense wants to stuff things up the middle, it's going to be very hard for the running back to make it to the line of scrimmage before the defense blocks everything. You are going to have a lot more success with a quarterback sneak, a give to the fullback, or some sort of outside toss to the halfback which takes advantage of the defense sending everyone inside instead.
Will Carroll: Which brings up a question I asked a couple weeks ago -- why is there virtually no pitch in the NFL? Why does Manning have to run out to Addai on the stretch play? Why no toss sweep? Fake dive, pitch reverse? There are a lot of things I grasp as differences in NCAA and NFL bc of size and speed, but this one's counterintuitive. The chance of a fumble can't be so much greater as to negate the speed of a pitch, can it?
Mike Tanier: There's no pitch anymore because defenses are too fast for a slow developing pitch play. By the time a halfback gets up the sideline, often the linebackers are already there.
Aaron Schatz: They pitch occasionally. We're actually tracking that in game charting this year.
Elias Holman: Last week in GB-STL, GB ran a play at the goal line out of the I where they faked like the play was just a power run to the right, and then did a quick give to the fullback who went left and walked into the endzone untouched as the defense was basically asleep and he got to the line of scrimmage so much faster. While that was STL we're talking about, it does support the "please do something interesting out of the I" theory.
Mike Tanier: It is now 10-0 Dallas and the Broncos cannot stop the run at all. Are the real Broncos about to stand up?
Vince Verhei: Champ Bailey picks off Tony Romo in the red zone, a beautiful fingertip snag. Denver still trails 10-7, but it's time to admit this team is much, much better than I thought they would be. Particularly on defense, where the front seven looks really aggressive. Seems like there's an orange jersey in the backfield more often than not. And the aging secondary is playing, well, young. I'm still not sure how good they are -- wins over Cleveland and Oakland do not impress me, and I'm still not sure what to make of Cincinnati or Dallas -- but I expected them to be one of the worst teams in the league, and they're certainly not that. They're about to enter the brutal part of their schedule, but they still have games against the Raiders, Redskins, and Chiefs twice, so they should be at least contending for the playoffs into December.
Aaron Schatz: Yes, when my team has two plays to try to score a touchdown to tie the game, the right call is to throw the ball to my number-four receiver covered by Champ Bailey. Twice.
Mike Tanier: The Broncos defense sure did tighten up after the first few drives. I wanna get a closer look at this game tape to see exactly who is beating up on whom, besides Dumervil.
Aaron Schatz: I'll agree with Vince. The Denver defense does look pretty good. It doesn't look like their strong numbers were just the result of playing bad offenses. They're really in Romo's head. How many times can he overthrow guys on post patterns so they have to jump and the ball glances off their fingertips?
The Denver offense, on the other hand, has caught some ridiculously lucky breaks.
Vince Verhei: Vernon Davis just made a great leaping catch on a seam route for a touchdown. He's starting to make that a habit.
Tom Gower: Attention Norv Turner: The game has started. You can make challenges. Challenging, say, that long early pass to Mike Wallace would probably have been a good idea.
Aaron Schatz: Attention Chargers: The game has started. You can play defense.
Wow, Rashard Mendenhall looks good. He looks so much better than Willie Parker, but I'm trying to figure out how much it is him -- the Chargers just can't stop anything up the middle without Jamal Williams. I'm sure Parker would look a lot better with holes this big.
Mike Kurtz: A lot of it is the Chargers, but Mendenhall doesn't have the incredible reticence that Parker does. He's not afraid of contact, and he's willing to hit first. He has other problems, but he's definitely better than Parker.
MIke Tanier: It's midway through the second quarter and I don't think the Chargers have heard Aaron's announcements yet.
Aaron Schatz: Honest to god, are the Chargers even trying? I know the defense is dealing with some injures but the offense just looks completely listless -- in the rare instances they've actually had the ball.
Mike Kurtz: Collinsworth drunkenness watch: "The Steelers are just kickin' their... stinkin' butts! Look at that! Yeah!"
Hooray, Steelers have begun looking for ways to lose this game.
Tom Gower: Brian Urlacher's TD against Arizona, redux. I'm pretty sure Logan's not down, and no whistle = San Diego touchdown.
Mike Kurtz: Yeah, that the whistle didn't get blown is an absolute travesty.
Aaron Schatz: Somebody needs to tell Cris Collinsworth that Adrian Peterson is not a good example of a player who doesn't fumble a lot.
I wonder if Mike Tomlin is going to be excoriated for letting Mewelde Moore throw a halfback option in the red zone, the same way Washington fans ripped Jim Zorn apart for the same play call a couple weeks ago with Clinton Portis.
Mike Kurtz: Nearly a disaster, but hopefully this game will see the end of the Willie Parker era.
Aaron Schatz: It was strange to see a Norv Turner team make a huge fourth-quarter comeback instead of the usual blowing of a fourth-quarter lead. This defense is really torn up, though -- that comeback was all offense, and one fluky special teams fumble/strip. They seem to be getting some more pass rush than they had last year, but the run defense is horrible without Jamal Williams, and it doesn't look like a healthy Antonio Cromartie has been a dramatic improvement on last year's secretly injured Antonio Cromartie.
244 comments, Last at 08 Oct 2009, 4:31pm by MJK